Former Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi appointed State Councillor, set to take over as Special Representative in border talks with India

China’s leaders on Saturday unveiled a sweeping change in the government’s Cabinet, announcing the appointment of Vice-Premiers and Ministers in charge of the Economy, Foreign Affairs and Defence to mark the final step in the Communist Party’s once-in-a-decade transition.

The National People’s Congress (NPC) or Parliament approved the appointment of four Vice-Premiers, who will serve under Premier Li Keqiang. Mr. Li was approved as the head of the State Council, or Cabinet, on Friday. The NPC also approved the appointment of five State Councillors, who will work under the Vice-Premiers.

Among them is former Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, who will take over from Dai Bingguo as China’s top diplomat. He is also expected to succeed Mr. Dai as the Special Representative in the on-going boundary talks with India.

Seventh-ranked Politburo Standing Committee member Zhang Gaoli (66), the former Tianjin party chief, will be the highest-ranked of the four Vice Premiers who will work under Mr. Li.

The others are: Politburo members Liu Yandong (67); Ma Kai (66) and Wang Yang (58). While Mr. Zhang is likely to handle Finance, Ms. Liu is expected to look after the portfolio of Education. The other portfolios usually handled by Vice Premiers include: Agriculture, Civil Affairs, Industry and Transport.

Boost for reformer

Mr. Wang is the only official among them who will remain a key figure in the leadership post-2017, when officials who are over the retirement age of 68 will have to step down.

Five of the seven members of the current Politburo Standing Committee, the highest ranked body, will retire then; only General Secretary and President Xi Jinping; and second-ranked Mr. Li, the Premier, will serve a 10-year term.

As the Party chief in Guangdong, Mr. Wang garnered a reputation of being a reform-minded official, introducing measures to make public the assets of officials, allowing greater scope for NGOs and most notably, securing a peaceful settlement to a high-profile stand-off between villagers and local officials over a land dispute in the village of Wukan.

He has also frequently spoken out on the need for political reforms. His appointment, analysts say, suggests he will receive a high position in the next Politburo Standing Committee.

The other notable appointments on Saturday included the selection of Chang Wanquan as one of the five State Councillors and as Minister of Defence, taking over the position of Liang Guanglie; and the choosing of career diplomat Wang Yi, a Japan expert, as the new Foreign Minister amid rising tensions between the two countries.

The NPC will conclude its session on Sunday, after approving the government’s work report, the national plan for economic and social development and the defence budget.

Mr. Xi is expected to make his first address to the body as President and Mr. Li will meet the domestic and foreign press for the first time.

More In: World | International | News